"Christ is risen!"
That's the Orthodox Pascha (Easter) Greeting.
Now. You say: "Truly He is risen!"
Tonight I celebrated my first Pascha Liturgy in the Holy Orthodox Church, and I must say that in true raga-d fashion it was a train wreck. We'd crammed most of us--that's six people, and not even all of us--into the P.T. Cruiser we'd rented so I could go to the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College on Friday. I should have known by the cantankerous ride to church that things would not bode well for the Burney's, but what can I say, I'm a melacholic sanguine personality type. My optimism and despair peacefully--and paradoxically--coexist.
We got there just before 11:30 pm, and I was a little confused because I'd never done this liturgy, and we hadn't arrived early enough for me to ask about it. I wanted to know if we needed to have the liturgy books we usually follow, and our dear usher, Michael (Phil) said no. This was after I hugged his even more dear to me wife, Patty, who after she squeezed me told me the Holy Friday service last night, "lasted a year." I chuckled. The Orthodox really know how to make it, whatever "it" may be, a production. I got a bulletin from Michael, andreturned to my seat with six candles for us.
We began with a Lamentation service before Mations began at midnight. The church was completely dark. Let me tell you, 11:30 pm lamentations and chanting, small children, a teenaged daugter in a PMS rage in a darkened church do not make for a experience conducive to deep spiritual reflection. ZZ, my six-year-old had promptly fallen asleep on my lap, Nia looked bored, Abeje whispered (Loudly) "I'm bored. I don't want to sit here listening to this until twelve o'clock," and whatever Kamau and Ken were up to I missed because I was too far away from them--three people removed from them in the pew.
There was supposed to be a procession outside of the church, in which we were all given the light of Christ, however, it happened to be raining like it was monsoon season in Detroit, and so Father Leo, the deacons, and some of the choir all scrunched into the Nave, while the monks from the monasterybravely proceeded outside, putting us non-monastics to shame. My family survived the lamentations, the three minutes of silence, and the no-procession. Then the bathroom runs started--and I do mean RUNS!
Z.Z. first, who had risen like Christ, with the light. I knew it was going to be trouble when I had to take her back to the bathroom five minutes later. We were popping up like a tin of Jiffy Pop popcorn and before you knew it, I'd added a few extra kids on the runs (with the runs). Finally, after disrupting the service quite enough, I told Ken I thought we should get the kiddos home and in bed.
This precipitated a crying tantrum from Nia, who Ken threatened to spank, followed by a dear brother in Christ asking if he could help. I told him the kids were getting sick, and because Nia was wailing like one of the myrrh bearing women, he didn't question us. Nia, by the way, was the only one who wasn't sick. By the time we loaded up into the Cruiser, we were tired, cranky, hungry (we'd missed the feast), and ready to kill one another. We ushered in this most holy day of the year like a can of pissed off sardines who didn't care to be sitting in oil together.
Abeje went on a rant in the car about the fact that only club music (bumpa, bumpa, bumpa, bumpa) played on the radio. We really tried to please this child, but she hated every station. We tried to tell her we didn't control what came on the radio, to know avail--this was all our fault--a vast, right wing conspiracy to destroy her listening pleasure. In between Abby's crabbiness and Nia's deep grief borne out of the sorrow of missing the rest of the service, everyone got more irritated. Ken and Abeje started to argue about the radio. Abeje mouthed off about everything from her cramps, to country music. Finally, after trying diligengtly to be a good and holy, God fearing, Pascha celebrating Mom, as the bickering creshendoed I yelled at them all to shut the hell up. Because I don't swear at them, this was very effective.
We get home and needless to say I feel totally unspiritual. I think I'm slime. I think I will possibly burn in hell for saying bad things to my spouse and children on the way home from church the holiest night of the year. I think about how I sat in the bathroom at church and realized to my horror that I look like Jabba the Hut in a mint green Easter frock from the view of the full-lenght mirror. Nothing will strip you of piety faster than seeing copious amounts of unsightly butt and belly fat pooled in a chair.
But the fact is, Christ is risen. He is risen when we are at our worst. He is risen, in fact, because of our worst. And it's not me and how I observe it that makes Holy Saturday (and the blessed Pascha) holy. It is all the beauty of Jesus, his finished work on the cross, and his magnificent love that soothes and heals when we feel fat and disgusting, the kids are sick, the hubbyand teen are cranky, and we just can't catch a break to think on the things of God.
I'm glad for that. Jesus did it all.